Based in Cooma, Australia, Sweet and Sour Surf is a blog by Damien Porter. His posts explore the pressures of life and being a man, husband, and father in today's world - sweet and sour surf.


Happiness and a Chicken Pesto Panini

Happiness. That thing, you know, that others always seem to have. Postcard pictures of holidays, pets, kids, kids' pets, workouts, nights out, freakouts, postcard pictures of fucking food, smiling spousies (a selfie with your spouse), our brand new housie! These are common posts for many of us. C'mon, we've all done at least one of these, some of us all of them. Now, I'm not saying this is bad ... except the food one ... like, seriously, who cares what you're eating. It's food, and all looks the same on the way out. Anyway, I digress. What concerns me is the blurring of lines between what actually makes us happy and what our social veneer is. Are some of us focussing on what happiness looks like so much, we're forgetting what it feels like. Furthermore, does social media, which should connect us better than ever, actually just throw another veil over what's really inside us.

Now, this is not a new concept, I know. The old 'what happens behind closed doors' thing has been around forever. But I believe our new social media shrink-wrapped world has added yet another layer of pressure to our lives, another place we need to 'keep up appearances'. Another throw-rug those who are struggling can chuck over the crappy cushions of their life. I want to be clear here. I'm not saying all those who post the abovementioned types of things aren't happy, and I'm not saying that it's all fake. What I'm saying is, if you are out with friends, good friends, and you're having a meal, how much of the conversation actually surrounds how wankily presented the food is and how great it tastes, and how much of it surrounds stuff like how your work week was, how things are at home, in your family, and just good old silly in-jokes etc? A 10/90 split, 30/70? Who actually posts stuff like, "Had a great heart-to-heart with Gazza today, over lunch. Things have been getting me down lately and I feel much better now. Thanks Gazza, ya goofy old bastard!" We don't. I understand there can be all kinds of reasons for this, like not wanting to broadcast your inner turmoil (it's embarrassing, sure), not wanting to be a downer, even thoughts that people might not really care etc. But my point is, we seem happy to let everyone know how great our kids are, how many coffees we're having, how many times our new cat farted (guilty!), and what our sporting, political, religious, and even sexual persuasions are, yet if we're feeling stressed or just a bit shit, we go on posting this stuff. It's at this point it kind of becomes bullshit, doesn't it? Not bullshit insofar as it's lies, but bullshit like a sleight-of-hand trickster - "Trying out my new Fitbit on this beautiful day with Cuddles (Oh my god, I'm so dead inside. What is the point moving, gravity is against me like everything else!)."

The danger is, social media makes us feel connected like never before. But are we? We see these posts and we "Like" and we feel like we know what's going on, even with old school friends, or distant family. And it always looks great. And sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we cringe, and sometimes we may even cry. I just want to say be careful. Don't let the playful posting replace real contact. 

We still need ask, "Are you ok?" Three little words that are often harder to say than the classic little three (I love you). We still need to pull our heads out of the modern mud and really communicate with those we love, even those we don't know for that matter. We have these powerful mediums. Kim Kardashian's latest nip-slip can go around the world in the blink of an eye, as can a Disney star's "courage" because she didn't have a style team transform her latest post showing four dimples on her otherwise perfect arse! Yet, all over the world, there are people - young, old, boy, girl, black, white etc - crying in change rooms, bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms because they feel that nobody understands. If they take that terrible step, the one many of them feel is the only way forward, plenty will say, "I didn't even know he/she was struggling." 

Just get your head around this for a second. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows suicide rates are the highest in 10 years, a leading cause of death in some age brackets, and three times higher for men than women. Sorry, what? THREE TIMES HIGHER FOR MEN. I believe this is because, more than ever, men don't really know what they're supposed to be, but this is a rant for another day. Every three hours somebody commits suicide in Australia. Succeeds, not attempts. Would you believe suicide comes in higher than breast cancer or skin cancer? I'm going to say it. I've been there. I've stockpiled pills. I've pulled over on the side of the road in my former work car (I was a policeman), drawn my firearm and sobbed uncontrollably, my teeth still around the cold, square muzzle. I did this many times. Sometimes, I was relieved I didn't go through with it. Sometimes, I was ashamed. 

So people, don't be scared to ask. You don't have to post it on their wall. You know, sometimes that's all it takes to make someone take a good look in the mirror and then seek help. Let's use social media for the powers of good. Or, better still, let's not use it and instead give someone a call, meet face-to-face, and look past the panini. 

Sir Nigel

Sir Nigel

Don't Give Yourself Away